The second challenge in four rounds of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Writing Contest just ended. My given genre was science fiction. I will tell you now. I have no clue how to write a science fiction story effectively. Below you will find my stab at it. If it is terrible, I really don't want to know. If you like it, you can tell me but I will likely still doubt you. Seriously.
That's Alright, Anna
by April Brown Pulliam
Their first date had been as eventful as first dates go in Memphis and had been everything Anna had hoped. She wasn’t at all surprised to find Troy was the type who still opened doors and pulled out chairs. He had made a sweeping gesture with the hand not gripping a box of Junior Mints allowing her to choose their seats in the empty Malco theater on Stage Rd. The evening had lacked nothing except, that is, the spoken promise of a second date. That text came two days later, and Anna fought the usual AutoCorrect battle and changed “Shut that suit greasy” to “Sure, that sounds great.”
Troy wanted to do this right. He wanted to surprise her, make her happy, and introduce her to one thing he knew set him apart from all others. Troy, the man who had driven her back and forth to Graceland countless times before he broke the ice, would show her a Memphis no one else could.
The humidity of June was the last thing on Anna’s mind as they pulled into Memorial Park. Her desire for this second date must have clouded her vision, because the sign not only read “Memorial Park;” it read “Memorial Park Cemetery.” She saw the sign, read it, and shook it off. When Troy parked on the paved drive just above the Crystal Shrine Grotto’s stone walkway, Anna was in awe. Below the Grotto she saw a fountain and pool that, after living all of her forty years in Memphis, she had never known existed.
Troy seemed excited to hurry Anna through the Grotto’s breathtaking display of Bible scenes. He ushered her toward the fountain and past a plaque reading “Pool of Hebron.” She must have trusted him more than most to allow herself to hover with an anxious man over a fairly isolated pool surrounded by the quiet of a sprawling cemetery.
“Anna...I want to...uh…” Troy couldn’t quite wrap his dry tongue around the jumble of words he had practiced in the rearview mirror of his empty tour bus just that morning. He tried once more. “Did you...did you enjoy the restaurant?”
“Oh, yes! It was great. Thank you, again.” Anna had loved The Arcade. She’d always heard it was the oldest in Memphis and never found the time to go.
Troy went for it. “Well, how would like to go back? Like...now? From here?” He gestured toward the fountain in front of them and the koi swimming before them, “From this?”
The smile that had not left Anna’s lips for weeks began to quiver, “Um...hmm?” One eyebrow involuntarily raised.
He had started and couldn’t stop. “I want you to see something.”
Anna cocked her head and pulled back a little from the pool’s edge which was growing more ominous. “Are you ok, Troy? Do you need to sit down?”
He laughed a nervous chuckle and went on quickly, his words running over one another in a tangle he prayed made more sense in the air between his lips and her ears than they did inside his head.
“I stumbled across this park on the Roadside America site one afternoon after I ate with a co-worker at The Arcade. I had a napkin in my pocket from the restaurant...allergies, ya know? I had written our total down on the napkin for the boss. It was $19.85. Well, uh…” Troy paused to clear his throat. “I pulled my phone out to take a few pictures. When I did, the napkin came out and fell into the pool.” He checked Anna’s face. She hadn’t run away yet. “Anna...I went there. I went to The Arcade...the 1985 Arcade.”
Anna stared. She thought she understood. She could only say, “Oh?”
Troy knew it was odd. “Will you let me show you?”
Anna hadn’t noticed that he had nervously been folding a napkin into a paper airplane as he spoke. She nodded, not because she agreed, but because she didn’t know what else to do.
Troy took hold of Anna’s right hand and placed the napkin airplane in her left. “Go ahead. Just toss it into the water.”
Anna, never graceful, lobbed the plane toward the fountain, and it fell feebly into the water. “Now, close your eyes,” Troy said. She could hear the smile on his lips as his fading voice whispered, “...and thank you, Anna.” The Grotto’s basilic notes behind her began to warp.
She felt her bottom thump against vinyl-covered springs, and she saw a line of light flash to her left. The strains of reflective music had become the static-laden guitar twangs of “That’s Alright, Mama.” This was not the park.
When she opened her eyes and focused, she saw a grinning Troy seated across from her and two straws in tall malt-filled glasses between them. Troy was blurry. She quickly realized that her glasses were askew. Anna’s shaking fingers found her own Zenni Optical discounted half-rims had been replaced with a pair of black cat-eye glasses. The line of lights, she quickly found, was a flurry of flashbulbs and a mob of camera-wielding fans and reporters beyond a window. She followed the direction of Troy’s glance and saw two men in a back booth. One man held a frosted glass and the other a burger. One man she did not know, but the other was, without any doubt in her mind, Elvis Presley.
The napkin airplane, dry and free of folds, was next to her glass. On it was written $19.57 in Troy’s careful script. Anna looked at Troy and again around the buzzing restaurant, her smile growing as big as her popping eyes.
Seconds to turned to minutes, and minutes turned to two malts downed, a basket of pleasingly greasy fry remnants, and several turns each at the corner jukebox.
Troy leaned in. “I know how to get back, Anna. You just say when,”
Anna leaned in even closer. “Troy...who said I want to?”